Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Hello, my dear friends,
Happy New Year to you!  May the new year bring joy, health, solutions to all life's problems... and may all your WIPs be finished! (One can dream, can't one?)

Every year, I make an ornament for the Christmas Tree. Usually, I do not get it finished until some time in January. This time, however, I finished right before Christmas - and not just one, but five of them! Here is one of my favorites - the Snowman!

It took some adjusting to make sure he did not look like an old lady in a lacy bonnet with all that trim around him....

                     Finishing these took a battle with the sewing machine and a glue gun...


Oh Christmas Tree... 

Happy New Year! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Get Well Wish

Today, I have been working on a small stitch for a friend. She has been recovering from surgery, and I thought a small Get Well hanging charm would do some good.

I modified the original design by Joan Elliott - some color modification making it smaller for the needed size. The white border ribbon in the corner allows it to be hung in the car - or anywhere, for that matter, as a good luck or healing charm. I hope it works....
On a personal note, I am in need of a Get Well charm of some kind myself... I have had a rough couple of days talking to my... mother. For a very long time, our relationship has been very strained. Recently, I tried to reach out to her - again, but, it seems, in vain. My efforts were not appreciated, my questions not answered. Her exact words were, " If you expect us [your parents] to explain ourselves to you, we do not intend to do so.... If you feel you have been mistreated, it shows there is something wrong with you. If you keep thinking that way and living in the past, seek therapy. "
When I read other people's posts about their mothers, there are words of love, gratitude, kindness. I cannot say that about my mother. Most of my childhood I remember feeling guilty, terrified, or both. Something was always my fault. I was never like "other kids" (now that I think of that, she was never like "other mothers). Occasionally, she bragged to her friends about my grades, but she always added to me it was probably due to private tutors she hired. When I passed the exams to the St. Petersburg University, her reaction was, "Well, at least we did not pay all these teachers in vain." So, maybe it was the act of God - whichever god was watching over me at the time, as well as now, thank you! - that I went abroad, experienced a different life, eventually got married and moved away from my parents - for good. I built my own life, with no help from the family I came from. Whatever hardships I endured, I did not bother my mother with it, and never asked for help. Once, a friend said to me, "Surely, you can ask your mom and dad for assistance if things go bad." I answered, " I'd rather die."
For the past fifteen years, I have tried, the best I could, to try and figure out where I stand with her. I have tried to maintain a connection with her and my father - mostly for the sake of my children, feeling that it would be unfair to cut them off from their grandparents... But, as always with my parents, my best is not good enough. I think it is time to cut the ties, sever the bond... whatever the appropriate metaphor is. I am just so tired of this... whatever it is, it is no longer a relationship. If it is, maybe it's an abusive one.
So, a toast: to the end of a horrible relationship, the first one, the most intimate - and most unrewarding one -  in my entire life....  This is the end. No more.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Gift for a New Baby

Ten days ago my nephew's wife had a daughter. I crocheted her a baby afghan and stitched her a card.

Well, it was meant to be a card, anyway... When I finished stitching and it was time to make the card, I discovered that -  my Craft Glue was missing! My daughter was working on a school Biology project, making a model of an animal cell, and... well, the glue was MIA. So, my husband suggested, "Why don't you just frame it?" The frame fit perfectly, the mat looked like it was made for it...

It is a Joan Elliott design, but I changed the fabric and also modified the colors to make it a bit brighter. Also, I added the nose to the baby's face, and made the mouth slightly bigger - seemed like the right thing to do.

On another note - my bead box with all my beads that was missing for a long time was returned today. (Thank you fairies!)

Now I am on to crocheting a mini shawl for a handmade doll I have... Wonder if it will make me loose my marbles? 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Child Raring and Stitches

The school year has officially started, which means - children walking around like zombies every morning and me trying to get them into semi-conscious state by various means, so they can make it to school on time. Yesterday, feeling somewhat panicked and insecure about my kids running late, I posted a line on Facebook, asking parents for advice, " What do you do to get your kids up for school on time?" By that evening, I had a few very useful tips. Many of them - like setting bedtimes, getting everything ready for the morning the night before, etc., I was already using. Then came an interesting comment, "You've got to give something to get something", followed by a very detailed plan of rewards for my children, based on how often they get up on time, complete with the star chart suggestions...
Don't get me wrong, I was grateful for the tips. I just don't know if rewarding children with treats for something they should be doing anyway is a good plan of action, - it seems to me a bit misleading. It is as if I need them to get up on time, where in reality they have to do it so they don't get in trouble at school; you know? Well, maybe it is a good plan for a kindergarten or a first grade student. Not for a teen. So.... that afternoon I sat everybody down and had a family announcement. I expressed to my older daughter that, as of next morning, she has to be dressed and ready to leave for school by 7:55 am (actually it's 8 am, but I thought I would cut the deadline a bit shorter just in case). If she is not ready, then her dad and her sister are going without her, and it is up to her to find a ride to school.
She listened, then we talked. She has been having trouble with her math class, and every night she has to stay up later and later to finish her homework. She has been tired more than usual. She wanted me to make sure that I see her wake up, because often, she said, she did not even hear me waking them up in the morning.
Today I woke both my daughters up at regular time; they got ready, got dressed, got breakfast and were ready for school - believe it or not - 30 minutes before the deadline! Both of them made it to school on time. No stars, no charts. Just letting them face their responsibilities.
Again, I want to stress this point - even it is no more than a personal belief: rewarding children for something that should be their responsibility is not a good practice, because it turns their duty into a game. In real life nobody is going to reward them for washing their ears, doing chores or getting up to the alarm clock. They will be - in fact, they already are - expected to do that anyway.
And that is my rambling and raving on the child raring question. Thank you for your patience. :)

Now on a more exciting subject, - stitching. I have stitched a bit more on Hogwarts Crest.
Hogwarts Crest progress - 09/17/2013
As you can see, the armor leaves on the right side are completely formed and just need to be filled in. I had to frog some stitching out in the process because of the miscount and redo a large portion of it; in fact, I still suspect that there may be a mistake or two in my stitchery. But - I am doing it for myself, so I resolved to leaving it as is. Can you see anything wrong with it? :) So far, I can't. And if it is not broken... it will be later, just give it time. :)
I also went to Jo-Ann's for some Christmas fabric - to finally finish up the Christmas ornaments I stitched in the beginning of summer. Here is what I picked up.

Christmas Fabric for the Ornaments
For  the most part, I think they will match well.. There is only one ornament that did not get the backing fabric. Remember my snowman with the snowflake?
I will need to find something different for him - something white or silvery or light green and blue with snowflakes for the pattern. None of the patterns I picked up matched him. He is a very particular character.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. Now I am off to stitch... And happy stitching to you!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stitching Stash

A week ago I made a trip to the local specialty needlework shops in the area - mainly in Solvang, our "Danish Village" - and let myself loose on their charts and supplies. My favorite shop, "Thumbelina",  carries European designs, as well as better known Lavender and Lace and Told in a Garden projects... I was especially intrigued by two very detailed samplers... Anyway, this is what I picked up.

The two bigger ones are historical samplers - one stitched originally by a 13-year-old girl in the 18th century (my hat off to her, I at her age could barely thread a needle). 
I addition, I continue to feed my addiction to Little House Needleworks designs. These were ordered online and are going to be stitched, framed and walled just as soon as possible.

While browsing the needlework shops, I noticed how expensive all the cross stitch kits have become. I used to love Janlynn and Dimensions kits, but I cannot justify spending almost $100 per kit, no matter the "special" quality of threads and linen. Turns out the reason for such a price increase is import costs! All these kits are now produced and put together in China. In addition to that, all the model stitching is also being outsourced to China as well.. Why, you might ask? One of the shop owners shared with me that these kits used to be 'Proudly made in USA", and the model stitchers were hired out of Pennsylvania, until they decided to have a union and asked for more money - they demanded to be paid over $20 per stitching hour... As a result, to save on costs, the companies outsourced their model stitching - and their kit production - to China... And that is why a simple kit at one of those stores starts at $75 - a lot more than I can afford even on my good, non-"financial-dieting" days. 
In my "vacation" mode, I completely forgot about my Etsy store. When I first went on vacation, I had such plans - stitch more biscornu, find more projects, have a sale... Well, instead of all that I ended up stitching entirely for myself - for my home, so to speak, and focusing on bigger projects, too. In fact, I have been enjoying it so much, that now I have an idea for a model stitching service... I have been thinking of starting my own website, show pictures of what I have stitched so far, and offer my services - to companies, private people, whoever is interested. And why not? I now have over 15 years experience stitching... and my rates will be way under $20 per hour. :) 
Now I am going to dive back into my stash and go on with the current project... Thanks for reading my ramblings! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Finished and Framed!

Just a quick "brag" post.... My Exodus project AND my Blue Sampler are finally finished, framed and are hanging on the walls! Yesss!
Blue Sampler

Remember this one? It took us about a year, but it was worth the wait. We picked the frame up at the local thrift store, and the mat at the craft shop. Joe, my DH, primed and painted the frame and cut the mat. Now it is hanging in the Craft corner, and I keep wanting to take more pictures. Somebody stop me! 


Joe also framed my Exodus - thank you! He said it was easy to frame - the size and the frame were standard, and the mat was all ready, as if just waiting for it...

On the reading front, I have not picked up a book in a while (shame on me!), but this month is the 20th anniversary of "Dead Man Walking" by Sister Helen Prejean. I have read the book about two years ago and really wanted to write a short review, but now I think I need to re-read it again before I write anything. So - on to reading and stitching I go! Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my random ramblings. :) 

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Life, Stitching and Zombie Update

Has it been two months already? Oh my, time flies when you're having... hmm... actually, time flies no matter what you are having. Right now, for example, I am having trouble forming a sentence, and time's still doing what it does.
As always, the past two months have been filled with excitement. My husband hurt his back in April. He could not go to work and spent over a month on disability.. only the disability refused to pay, because he had  to visit a free clinic (apparently, the paperwork was not signed by the "physician" but instead by the "physician's assistant." That makes a big difference for the state disability). Then, there was an interesting episode of  "Creditors Attack!" - that was when all my bank accounts were seized by a creditor and ALL the funds were confiscated - in lieu of the payment. That felt a lot like being ransacked by pirates.
Yet, some very good changes happened, too. My husband got well and got a new job, a much better - and better paying - job... Bills are getting paid... Family is taken care of... He even got me a present - a new camera! My first question right after "thank you" was, "Can we afford it?" It appears we can... Life is - dare I say it? - improving, getting stable. I am still being very cautious, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, you know.Watching the bills, turning off the lights, saving leftover ground coffee in a jar in case we  are "out" one morning... But I can feel it, life improving!
My daughter Rita graduated Elementary school this year. Next year, it's Junior High for her. Vera, my youngest, is right behind her. Yesterday they went to visit family for the summer. I miss them, but I will enjoy the quiet, not to mention more free time...What to do, what to do? I know - stitching!
In the stitching department, I have done a few things. First, I had a surge of Christmas mood, so I stitched some ornaments. I am still thinking of how to finish them better, ribbons and backing materials and such, but the stitching is all finished....

Fist Day - Partridge and a Pear Tree.

Also feels like "When I shall be King,  you shall be Queen."

Day Two - Christmas Cottage

The original called for darker fabric, but I did not like the "gingerbread cookie" look of it, so I changed the color of the snow - from white to light blue - instead.  

Day Three - Peace on Earth
This one was the most time-consuming to stitch, because of the border. When you first look at it, the design is not that complicated, but it's all these flowered border blocks that take up your time... and patience. 
In addition, I poked a hole in my finger when stitching this one, so maybe I am just holding a grudge. :)
Day Four - Snowman
He was supposed to hold a present charm, but I did not like the idea. Where did you see a snowman giving out presents? Then, my
husband saw it and immediately said : "What he needs now is a snowflake!"
I looked through my stash and - voila! - here is a snowflake, not too big, not too small... Just right, like in the Goldilocks story.

At first, I had plans to make twelve ornaments (you know, one for each twelve days of Christmas), but now I think I bit off a little more than I could chew. Besides, stitching these is half the deal; the other half is finishing them - finding the right ribbons, cloth etc... Right now I am in the process of scouting craft and thrift shops in search for ribbons and cloth and felt...  So this process is only half way done. When these are finished, I will show them off with pride - here on my blog. :)

Finally, for the past couple of weeks I have been working on another stitching project. Those who read my Facebook updates know what it is.....

"Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness" - Little House Needleworks.
Stitched on Linen with DMC floss. 
 I have been working on it for about two weeks, and the day before yesterday it was finished. The whole time I was stitching, I was also thinking about something my friend said - in passing - about the distant past: "Life was easier back then." Easier? I disagree. Simpler, maybe - there was less noise, horses instead of cars, letters instead of email. But the "stuff" of life - the choices we have to make - are never easy, and never have been. Past is easier for us because we already know the outcomes; it was hard for the people that lived through it, just like our times may be challenging for us. Yet, I would not be surprised if forty-something years from now, when I am old and moldy, one of my grand kids said, "Grandma, life was easier for you than it is for me. They did not have flying cars back then!"

In conclusion - I almost forgot - zombies! Lately I have been playing a lot of video games... My favorite so far is "Zombies Ruined my Day" - an indie game where you get to kill cartoon-like zombies. Killing zombies is most therapeutic, especially when I imagine that they are creditors. :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Thoughts...

Just a quick post about my activities besides stitching. Right now it's tax return time, which for us means paying bills, buying necessities and loading up on books for the rest of the year.
For some time now, I have wanted to read the new book by J.K. Rowling. After the Harry Potter series, she wrote "The Casual Vacancy", a novel for adults. Unlike her previous, magical books, this one is very real-life, down-to-earth, serious and in the end tragic story about life in a small town. As the characters get introduced, described and developed, each one of their situations is woven into the whole picture, making it more tangled and complicated. Neighbors and friends scheme against each other; relatives deceive each other; children lie and scheme against their parents - and each character is wrapped in own illusions, lives in his or her custom world, until a real tragedy happens and two children die. Their deaths strip the pretense off the rest of the town and force the real colors to come through the appearances.... In the end, everyones' lives are   changed.... whether they realize it or not.

   (One strange detail: somehow through all the tragic events of the story I kept wanting to drink tea. Every time I started a new chapter, my hand would almost automatically reach for the teacup and then some cookies. The novel's story is anything but cozy, but J.K Rowling's descriptions transport one into that small town, with its cobblestone square, tiny tea and coffee shops, deli and restaurant, with all its smells, sounds, talk and gossip. Tea seems a necessity in this atmosphere, not unlike when watching "Midsomer Murders": small cozy-looking square, people bustling around, then - there is a dead body! Oh no, how horrible! Would you like a spot of tea? )))

   The most surprising - horrifying? - part of the story for me was the circumstances that led to the death of a 3-year-old boy. He was left unattended, walked over to the river and drowned - a tragic.. accident? Yes, of course. But it was not the moment of his death that horrified me - that was the final strike, the blow that gave the shock, but not the feeling of horror; it was the behavior of the people around him. The entire time, this boy was surrounded by people, by adults. He was seen marching to the river, straight to his death, as it turns out, and none of them asked themselves: why is this boy alone? Where are his parents? Why is he so dirty? Maybe I should stop him and call someone? No, these townsfolk - friendly and proud of their home and full of "community spirit"  - did not  even pause to do anything for one of their own, the smallest and the most helpless of them. They simply chose to - ignore him and go on with their lives. Their  behavior, in the end, is what caused the tragedy. Under the warm glaze of community spirit and smiles there is the cold, hard indifference, and the realization of that sends chills down my back.

J.K. Rowling's "Casual Vacancy"
Image from MTV.com
   Well it was meant to be a quick post, but when I start on books, there is no stopping me.. I will end this (soon) with a suggestion: if you have not read this book yet, then do - it's going to make you think... And  if you already have, then let me know your impressions.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The End of the Run - Late Update

Finally, the holiday run is over! I am done with work - for now - and trying to get back to my "routine". So far, not very successful, but I will get there... But let me start at the beginning...

At the end of the summer, all inspired and excited by my educational achievements and full of energy, I signed up for a 'full load" of classes - full time, 12 units, most of them online, one of them in the evening. I thought I could do it - I had done it before!
Then, in October, a job came - temporary, but long-term and full-time. I was still OK - I expected it, counted on it, knew  it was going to come. But after a full day of work coming to school twice a week, plus homework every night, including weekends, became more difficult. Sometimes I caught myself wondering how badly I really needed that diploma (a dangerous line of thought)... Finally, one time the teacher mentioned that my "attendance is not really that important in the grade calculation, and neither is homework." I still don't know why he said it and if he really meant what he said, but for me that was the last drop. I left class early that day and did not come back. The rest of the classes, although I seemed to be doing decently in them, followed... Unfortunately, it was too late to withdraw from any of the courses, so I quietly took all F's and, as some might say, retired with dignity.

I know what it looks like: I have made a rash decision, my education has suffered and my GPA is down, and I will have to "fix" it by re-taking every class all over again. I know that, and yet I don't feel bad, I believe I have made the right decision. I could have suffered through the semester and come out with decent grades (hopefully), but instead I chose to have real life experiences. I played and talked with my children. I spent time with my friends. I took walks on the beach. I celebrated birthdays and holidays - my own, my husbands' and also our 10-year anniversary - and for once  I was not dead tired, I was able to enjoy them... I have never had so much fun or been so happy, sad, surprised, bewildered  (the whole range of emotions) -  before. So, overall, I believe I did the right thing - to the point that having all F's adds to life experience, another one I have never had before.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stitching and Family Update

Hello, here I am! I know it has been about three months since my last post, but I promise you - I am alive and well.... Busy, tired, often sleep-free, but basically well....
So, what have I been up to these past three months? Let me see.... Mostly stitching! Here are the new things I have stitched - for myself and for my shop...

Looks a bit like mismatched puzzle pieces, doesn't it? That's what my head feels like, too. After several months of order stitching my dreams got filled with cross stitch; my nightmares consist of broken needles and ripped threads; every time I look at anything, I automatically see it as a chart.... 

I had to do something, and I did. I took a couple days off, and I stitched a small piece from Little House Needleworks - her free Christmas pattern. Just what I needed! 
Here it is...

Originally it had more hearts, and the saying said "Happy Hearts", but hearts is not usually my favorite motif, so I changed it a bit... Stitching it felt like drinking hot cocoa - warming, sweet and relaxing. I will make it into an ornament, and next year it will be on our tree.

My Hogwarts Crest and my Mansion  are still in the WIPs pile, to my shame... I will have to leave them for the next "mini-vacation." When is the next.. International Hermit Stitching Day? 

Now, about my family. I am a very proud mother this year, because my daughters - both of them - received medals "For Academic Excellence" at their school... Ironically enough, the day after the ceremony my youngest daughter brought home a note stating that, because she forgot to turn in her homework, her "academic performance may suffer." I thought I'd let this one slide - so she won't be the best of the best, but only the best by a little bit, so what? We can live with that. ))) 
Academic Excellence and Attitude in one great package
Also, this year my youngest daughter turned ten... She wanted to decorate the cake herself, and this is the result. 
Mixture of Picasso's technique with Van Gough's Starry Night.

   All in all, I wish I could spend more time with my daughters. Last year, when we moved to this new bigger house, they convinced me that changing schools would be "very sad and traumatic" - all their friends were at the old one, all their favorite teachers were there. So, I agreed to let them stay for one year - next year Rita is going to Junior High anyway, and Vera can go to the new school as well. Now, with a little over three months of school left, I count the days until I can switch them to something closer. Why? 
   First of all - mornings: they have to get up earlier to get there on time, and often that is... a problem. Did any of you, my friends, tried to get a pre-teen girl out of bed in the morning? Let me tell you - it's not easy... 
   Second - after school time: before we moved, after school my girls went straight home (where else?); now, because we live farther away, they go to their grandmother's - she still lives nearby. Then she drops them off to me in the late afternoon... So, even though I do not work as much as I used to, it still feels a lot like work schedule: not enough time with my kids. It feels even weirder, though, because in the afternoons I am alone in the big house, - the big house that was supposed to be for them.... Yet, they are someplace else. 
   Maybe it's me: my daughters are getting older, they don't "need" me as much, and I am getting older too... I feel less useful sometimes - here I am, out of work, alone at home while everyone else is doing something - working, going to school... But what about me, what am I doing?
   Stitching, that's what! I stitch. I should probably cross stitch the banner for myself - "I STITCH". This is all mine, it is the job I chose and created for myself, nobody can take it away, no one can fire me or lay me off from it. It gives me strength to know that I am working towards something long-term and very real - towards creating my own job, my own business, something that will stay past my "hiring age." 
Happy stitching, my friends! 

First biscornu I ever made - "Snow Queen."
Original design by Lubov Kolpakova